Baked Ziti

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Our easy baked ziti recipe is classic comfort food made from scratch! This is a simple recipe that is easy to toss together and perfect for feeding a crowd! Tender ziti noodles are baked to cheesy perfection with a homemade meat sauce.

Cheesy baked ziti on a white plate.

Kim’s Tips

  • Undercook the pasta. You’ll want to cook the pasta until it’s almost al dente. That way it doesn’t get mushy and soft as it bakes.
  • Add Italian sausage! Swap the ground beef with Italian sausage or use half ground beef and half Italian sausage. The flavor combo tastes amazing!
  • Try different types of cheese. Mozzarella and parmesan cheese are a great choice but feel free to play around with different kinds of cheese to find a flavor you love!
  • Leave out the sugar and balsamic glaze. Our meat sauce gets a touch of sweetness from the brown sugar and balsamic glaze, but feel free to skip them if you prefer.
  • Use cooking oil or butter. We used 80/20 ground beef, so it has enough leftover fat to cook the onions. If you use a lean ground beef, you may need to add a little oil or butter to cook the onions.


  • The meat sauce is savory, tangy, and a little sweet from the balsamic vinegar and brown sugar. This dish is extra cheesy since we blend cheese right into the pasta and sprinkle more on top. This is totally a stick to your bones type of meal.
  • Double the recipe and bake it in a large, aluminum foil pan. The pan has plenty of room and it’s disposable.
  • If preparing the baked ziti ahead of time, use a pan that goes to freezer-to-oven without damage. Glass and ceramic pans can crack or break if the temperature changes too quickly.
Spatula scooping baked pasta from a pan.


Refrigerator: Store leftover baked ziti in the fridge for up to 4 days.

Reheating: Reheat in the microwave at half power until warmed through or in the oven at 350°F until the ziti reaches the desired temperature.

Can I make baked ziti ahead of time?

Absolutely! Assemble the dish according to the recipe instructions, but hold off on baking it. Cover the ziti tightly with plastic wrap or aluminum foil and refrigerate it for a few hours or up to overnight. When you’re ready to bake it, remove the cover and bake as directed.

Make sure to undercook the noodles slightly since they’ll soak up moisture from the sauce while the ziti is stored in the fridge.

Scoop of baked ziti on a plate.

Baked Ziti

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Author: Kimberly
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes
Servings: 8 Servings


  • 12 ounces uncooked ziti
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • ¼ cup water
  • 28 ounces crushed tomatoes, canned
  • 1 ½ tablespoons balsamic glaze
  • ½ cup shredded parmesan cheese, divided
  • 12 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
  • Fresh parsley, or basil, for garnish


  • Heat the oven to 400°F, and lightly coat a 9×13-inch baking dish with cooking spray.
  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and cook the ziti until almost al dente. Drain, and set aside.
    12 ounces uncooked ziti
  • While the pasta cooks, make the meat sauce. Add the ground beef, salt, and pepper to a large sauté pan and cook on medium heat until the beef is almost browned.
    1 pound ground beef
    1 teaspoon salt
    ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Drain the beef leaving about a tablespoon of fat behind, then add the onions. Continue to cook until the onions are softened and the ground beef is cooked through.
    1 medium onion
  • Add the remaining seasonings and tomato paste, and sauté for a 3-4 minutes until fragrant.
    2 tablespoons light brown sugar
    1 tablespoon dried oregano
    1 tablespoon dried basil
    1 teaspoon garlic powder
    1 teaspoon dried parsley
    ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
    3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • Pour in the water to deglaze the pan. Then add the crushed tomatoes and balsamic glaze.
    28 ounces crushed tomatoes
    ¼ cup water
    1 ½ tablespoons balsamic glaze
  • Add the cooked ziti, and toss to coat.
  • Sprinkle in ¼ cup of parmesan cheese and 1 cup of mozzarella cheese, mix well then transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish.
  • Top the pasta with the remaining cheese and bake for 20-30 minutes until golden brown and bubbly.
  • Serve with additional parmesan cheese and fresh parsley or basil if desired.
  • For tips, notes, FAQs, and storage information, scroll to the post below the recipe card.


*The calories listed are an approximation based on the ingredients in the recipe card and a serving size of 1.5 cups of pasta. Actual calories will vary.
*Recipe makes approximately 12 cups.


Serving: 1.25cups | Calories: 517kcal | Carbohydrates: 48g | Protein: 29g | Fat: 23g | Saturated Fat: 11g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 8g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 78mg | Sodium: 880mg | Potassium: 690mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 11g | Vitamin A: 675IU | Vitamin C: 12mg | Calcium: 372mg | Iron: 4mg
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